It can be an emotional experience to see how baby turtles hatch. Also known as hatchlings, they struggle to get out of their nest. Afterward, they will race to go to the water along with other hatchlings. It will be hard for them to reach the sea because of the obstacles in the sand.
For baby turtles, everything from driftwood to footprints and crabs is all huge obstacles. Although they are essential for the baby turtles’ survival. They also have a few predators such as birds, raccoons, and fish. Out of one thousand baby turtles, only one turtle will make it to its adulthood. Nature is indeed a dangerous place to live.
Before this happens, the adult female sea turtle will lay eggs in the nest. After that, it will go back to the sea. Sea turtles leave their nest and let the eggs develop by themselves. How long their eggs hatch depends on the turtle species. This will also be influenced by the environment. It includes the temperature of the sand.
They don’t have sex chromosomes. Their gender will be determined depending on the temperature of their nest. Provided that everything goes well, the hatchlings will be born. If you happen to be passing on the beach where they hatch, you have to avoid helping them out. Here’s why you shouldn’t help baby turtles to reach the sea.
Should You Help Baby Turtles to the Sea?
The answer to this question is a sounding no! Don’t try to relocate the baby turtles or put them in the water. Avoid interfering with the hatchlings that are emerging from their nests. Allow them to crawl along the beach to reach the water. Even if they look helpless, they are capable of crawling and reaching the sea.
Also, be informed that interfering with the hatchlings is a crime. Disturbing the sea turtles and their nests is illegal. You will also be hindering the baby turtles’ ability to learn. They need to do this on their own. That way, they will be able to go back to their nesting area when they grow.
What Are Sea Turtles?
Sea turtles are different from freshwater turtles. Although they are closely related, sea turtles are unique and they live in the marine world. They live in the large tropical and subtropical sea around the planet. Sea turtles come in different shapes, sizes, and colors. They have strong jaws and sharp beaks.
Even if sea turtles live most of their lives under the ocean, females get out of the water and lay their eggs in the sand. They all begin their lives from land and live in the ocean. The most common sea turtle species is the olive ridley. While the Kemp ridley is the most endangered turtle species.
How to Help Baby Sea Turtles?
1. Avoid the Beach on Summer Nights
You may not be able to touch the baby sea turtles but you can still help them in other ways. From April to August, avoid walking on the beach at night. That’s the time when the female sea turtles lay their eggs. You might frighten them and return to the sea.
2. Don’t Keep the Baby Turtles
When you see baby turtles from the beach, avoid taking them. Don’t keep them in a bucket of water or aquarium. It will trigger their swimming reflex. They will end up using the energy they need when they already have to swim in the ocean. It’s also not a good idea to keep them as pets.
3. Stop the Light Pollution
Light pollution where their nests are located will make the hatchlings disoriented. Luckily, there are trained turtle workers on the beach at night. They will protect the hatchlings and lead them back to the ocean. Leave it to the permitted professionals to redirect baby turtles.
5. Contact Your Local Environmental Protection Agency
In case you see anyone harassing the sea turtles or poaching their nests, contact your local environmental protection agency right away. You can also do this if there’s light pollution going on. They will be able to help the baby sea turtles right away.
6. Stop Polluting the Ocean
If you want to help the sea turtles and other marine animals, stop disposing of plastic bags in the ocean. Plastic bags look similar to jellyfish underwater. Sea turtles will try to eat them since it’s their favorite food. It will cause the sea turtles to become sick or worse, die.
7. Avoid Marked Sea Turtle’s Nests
There are marked sea turtles nests around the beach so people can avoid them. It’s a violation of Stae and Federal laws if you disturbed the sea turtle’s nest. Don’t use flash photography, flashlights, or video camera lights directly towards their nest. Bright lights will make the nesting females disoriented and discourage them to lay eggs.
Why Should You Never Touch Baby Sea Turtles?
Touching baby sea turtles is not a good idea. They are very fragile and their softshell can be easily damaged by touch. You might also break their organs or food sac if you’re not trained to handle hatchlings. Professional sea turtles rescuers use both hands and wear latex gloves if needed.
Sea turtles should never be touched by humans unless they need to be rescued. The trained professionals should be the only people to do this if the turtle needs help. The hatchlings must also crawl in the sand by themselves. It helps them with their imprinting process. That will allow them to go back to the same beach for nesting in the future.
What Happens if You Help a Baby Sea Turtle?
Helping a baby sea turtle may do more harm than good for them. Touching them will disturb their native protection. It might also injure them especially if handled on their soft surfaces. Hatchlings are still very fragile since they dont have fully developed shells yet. Touching it can hurt the sea turtle and lose the ability to swim.
Is Touching Sea Turtles Illegal?
Yes, it’s illegal to touch sea turtles. That includes harassing them and their nesting grounds. Sea turtles are protected by the Endangered Species Act. Keep your distance from the sea turtles at least 10 feet according to NOAA. For seals, your distance should be at least 50 feet.
Touching the sea turtles may have some bad effects on them. They are not supposed to be mingling with humans. A simple touch may hurt the baby sea turtles. They are endangered species and need to be protected. It’s better to avoid touching them or end up getting fined.
Should You Move Baby Sea Turtles?
You were walking on the beach when all of a sudden you see a cute baby sea turtle. It looks like it was left behind by other hatchlings. You want to help it out but what can you do? Just leave the sea turtle alone and dont pick it up.
Baby turtles can sometimes look disoriented but they are healthy. If you see them crawling their way to the sea, avoid interfering. Although you can help by moving the obstacles that stop them from entering the water. But avoid touching the hatchlings and just watch them go.
How Long Baby Turtles Hatch?
The incubation period in most turtle species is usually between 45 to 70 days. It may vary depending on the type of species, the clutch size, the temperature, and the humidity of the nest. The gender of the embryo also depends on the temperature of the nest.
It will be males if the nest temperature is low. If it’s high, that will be females. When it comes to green sea turtles, the nest temperature of 28C or below, will produce males. If it’s 31C or above, that will be all females. When the temperature is between them, it will produce a mix of male and female hatchlings in the nest.
When sea turtle eggs hatch, they will use their carbuncle or egg tooth to break and open their shells. It will take 3 to 7 days for the hatchlings to dig themselves and go to the surface. Normally, they wait until the night before getting out of their nest. It will reduce their exposure to predators.
According to studies, some nests will have hatchlings in more than one night. If undisturbed, they can have more than 90% of the clutch to hatch successfully. For nests that have been disturbed by humans or animals, it can only have a 25% or lower success rate of hatching.
3. Reaching the Ocean
Once the baby sea turtles hatch, it’s time to find their way to the sea. They will head for the greater light intensity of the open horizon. It might be because they discriminate the light intensities. Hatchlings also set their internal magnetic compass to navigate their way to the sea.
When the baby turtles reach the surf, they will dive into the wave and ride it. After that, the swimming frenzy will last between 24 to 48 hours once they enter the water. It will help the hatchlings to vo to the deeper water. That will also make them less prone to be eaten by predators.
What are Lost Years?
After the hatchlings entered the ocean, they will be rarely seen. It can happen between 1 to 3 years which is referred to as the lost years. Most of them spend their first years living an oceanic existence. After that, they will appear in coastal areas. Their migratory patterns are still unknown.
Researchers believe that the hatchlings may be riding the surface currents. They stay in floating seaweed so that they can find food. While the flatback hatchlings dont go through the oceanic phase. They remain inshore after the initial swim frenzy.
Do Sea Turtles Snap at You?
Sea turtles are not usually aggressive. But they can snap at you when they feel that they are in danger. It will bite you if you’re not careful and if they feel threatened. They have sharp beaks as well as powerful jaws even they dont have teeth.
The sea turtle’s bite can break human bones or at least give severe skin bruises. They can bite off your finger so make sure to be careful around them. Sea turtles will not be aggressive towards humans. Unless they can sense danger, sea turtles will avoid you instead of attacking.
Can You Pet a Sea Turtle?
No, you can’t pet a sea turtle since they are endangered species. It’s illegal to touch them as well as make them your pet. They are in a protected class and they can grow big. It will be hard to provide them with a turtle tank big enough for their adult size.
But there is one exception when you can keep a sea turtle at home. Although it will only be a temporary setup. That is when you rescue an injured sea turtle. You will be allowed to take care of it until it’s healed. But after that, you have to release the sea turtle back to the ocean.
What Happens If You Touch a Baby Sea Turtle?
Generally, turtles carry Salmonella bacteria on their bodies. Even if they look clean, it’s best to avoid touching them. When you touch baby sea turtles, it can get to your hands. That will have a bad effect on humans and it can cause disease.
Touching a baby sea turtle can also be lethal to them. Their bodies are still fragile along with their shell. If you mishandle it, the hatchling can end up in pain. It may also disrupt the imprinting ability that helps them find their way back.
Are Sea Turtles Aggressive or Friendly?
Sea turtles are not aggressive or friendly. They are solitary types of animals and they prefer to be left alone. Even if sea turtles are not aggressive, they will bite you if they feel threatened. Their sharp beaks and strong jaws will make you regret touching them. It’s best to leave them alone and watch at a safe distance.
Can You Legally Own a Sea Turtle?
No, there’s no way you can legally own a sea turtle since they are on the endangered species list. Aside from that, they carry Salmonella bacteria. It can poison children and even adults if you didnt follow strict hygiene. They are also hard to care for, unlike other turtle species.
Can You Keep Baby Sea Turtles As Pets?
No, baby sea turtles have the same characteristics as adults. They are already included on the endangered species list. It’s illegal to own a baby sea turtle and make it your pet.
If you find a hatchling, it’s better to leave them in nature. They will manage to go to the water even if it seems they can’t do it. They have their natural instinct to go to the water a few days after hatching.
Facts About Sea Turtles
- Only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings can survive through adulthood. They have to go through a lot before they survive to grow up.
- Baby turtles eat a variety of prey such as mollusks, hydrozoans, crustaceans, jellyfish, fish eggs, and sargassum seaweed.
- The hatchlings of the leatherback and flatback turtles are bigger than some sea turtle species.
- Leatherbacks are pelagic even as hatchlings and their size aid them to maintain their temperature.
- Natural light horizons are used by hatchlings to find their way to the ocean. That also includes the white crests of waves and reach the water when they emerge from their nest through them.
- Other light sources like streetlights, car lights, campfires, and more can lead them in the wrong direction. The hatchlings will be disoriented because of light pollution.
- When the hatchlings are out of their nest, they have to face different predators instantly. That includes ghost crabs, raccoons, birds, dogs, and even fish.
- Scientists are concerned about the rising global temperatures. It might result in having warmer sand. That can kill more female turtles and hatchlings which will decrease their numbers even more.
Why are Sea Turtles Decreasing?
Sea turtles have a major role when it comes to maintaining the ecological balance. They can help to maintain the nutrient cycle because of the marine food chain. These sea turtles help mostly the marine ecosystem so they are important. But their numbers are decreasing over the years because of different reasons.
One of the main reasons is water pollution. The sea and ocean are now polluted due to human activities. It affects marine life big time. But it’s not just the waters but also their terrestrial habitats. Due to the rising sea levels, they may no longer have a land area close to the sea.
Natural calamities also contributed to why the sea turtles are decreasing in numbers. Floods, cyclones, and typhoons affect marine life. The worst problem is sea turtles are being hunted and killed. People kill them for their meat, shell, eggs, and skin. If it didnt stop, they may go extinct.
Where Sea Turtles Breathe?
Sea turtles are reptiles and they have lungs. Although they live in the sea, they still need to go to the surface to breathe. Sea turtles need to breathe air so they have to come up regularly for some air. They breathe on land although they dont need as much oxygen as humans.
How to Save Sea Turtles?
- Be conscious as well as a responsible seafood consumer. Ask where and how the seafood was caught at all times.
- Go for the seafood that was caught in a way that doesn’t harm turtles.
- Find a sustainable seafood information network so you can learn about how and where the seafood is caught.
- Contact the local sea turtle stranding network immediately when you found an injured sea turtle that needs help.
- Be involved and support the sea turtle conservation to help save the sea turtles from extinction.
How to Protect the Sea Turtle Habitat?
- Marine debris must be reduced that can entangle the sea turtles. Join the coastal clean-up and stop using plastic to keep the ocean clean. It can harm turtles and other marine creatures.
- Use reusable water bottles instead as well as reusable plastic bags. Stop releasing balloons since they usually end up in the sea. Turtles might mistake it for food and eat them.
- Make the nesting grounds dark and safe for the sea turtles. Avoid or redirect the lights away from the sea. It can disorient the hatchlings and the female sea turtles may not come to lay their eggs.
- Avoid disturbing the sea turtles, their nests, and th hatchlings. You can attend an organized sea turtle watch to learn how to observe the nesting sea turtles safely.
- Take off the recreational beach equipment at night. Chairs, boats, and umbrellas can turn away the sea turtles from nesting.
- Before leaving the beach, fill the holes and destroy the sandcastles. It can be installed for nesting turtles and hatchlings.
Releasing Sea Turtles Tips
It’s an emotional and powerful experience that anyone might have. Different conservations are holding this momentous event. If you want to help the sea turtles, make sure to also follow these tips before you release them. Apply them when you have a chance to do so.
1. No Touching
Even during these events, you should never touch the baby sea turtle. It will affect their survival. They have to imprint on the sand where they were hatched. The oil from your skin may interfere with this process. If you hold them roughly, they can break their food sac.
2. Crawl Not Run
Make sure to release the hatchling on the sand and not in the water. They have to crawl towards the sea. It’s part of their imprinting process. This will help them with their survival. If it’s a female sea turtle, she will know where to go when it’s time to lay her eggs in the future.
3. Sunrise or Sunset
For the baby sea turtles’ safety, they should be released either at sunrise or sunset. It will help them to avoid predators. They are still small and fragile when they go to the sea as hatchlings. They should be released between these timeframes. This will give them a better chance of survival when they reached the ocean.
4. No Bright Lights
Sea turtle’s hatchlings will be disoriented when they see bright lights coming from cameras or mobile devices. They will lose their focus and fail to use their natural magnetic compass. The bright lights can be turned away from the hatchlings from the ocean. It will make them use up their energy instead of using it to the sea.
1. Are turtles dirty pets?
Turtles are known to carry Salmonella bacteria. Its located in their outer skin and shell surfaces. This bacteria can make people very sick. Other reptiles like geckos and bearded dragons can also infect humans. If you have a pet turtle, make sure to always wash your hands after handling them to avoid getting infected.
Turtles may not look dirty but they carry this bacteria. Thats why it’s better if you will avoid holding your pet turtle. Salmonella can be transferred to humans. If you have small children at home, make sure that they will jotbhokd the turtle. It can cause severe illness, especially for kids. Their immune system is not strong enough as adults and that will be a problem.
2. Can turtle get attached to their owners?
Ues, turtles can also become attached to their owners like other pets. They can also recognize your voice as well. But the bond is different compared to what you will have with a dog. Turtles can be playful and active but dont like being handled. So give it space and the turtle will appreciate that.
Turtles are not friendly creatures and they prefer not to be pet by humans. Holding the turtle might stress them. It can cause them to become sick. Dont put the turtle tank where people frequently visit. They prefer to have a quiet environment. Place their tank where nobody usually goes.
3. What food you should not feed turtles?
Any food that is meant for humans should not be fed to turtles. Dont feed them raw meat, feeder fish, and fruits. The best food for them is kale, romaine lettuce, and waterweed. You can also feed them turtle pellets as their protein source.
Processed food for humans is not for turtles. They contain preservatives that can disrupt the turtle’s metabolism. It can make them sick so it’s better to provide them with the recommended food for their diet. Turtles will be healthier if you feed them greens as well as protein.
Baby sea turtles are not yet fully developed. It’s best if you leave them as they try to go to the water for the first time. They can do it since it’s their natural way of life. The hatchlings are very important so that the sea turtles will continue to exist on the planet. They are on the endangered list now which means we have to protect them in any way we can.